The Disappearing Middle Class of E-Commerce

The Disappearing Middle Class of E-Commerce

Observations On A Once-Powerful Force In Retail

Once Upon A Time…

  • If you had a website, people would visit it. Then everyone had a site so people stopped coming to yours.

  • If you stuffed your site with keywords and it would get found in search engines. Then everyone stuffed keywords, so people stopped coming.

  • You packed your site with pages of ‘relevant content’, it would get links and Google would favor it. Then everyone did it, so it stopped working.

The cause and effect nature of internet marketing allowed for folks with limited knowledge of technology, marketing, and business to win on the web with elementary business models and very vanilla e-commerce stores.

Get a website and a couple of drop-ship accounts 💥 — you are in business. Hire someone to SEO-so-hard on your behalf and you were making money. Bada-bing. Bada-boom.

More products. More money. Scale, scale, scale!


Unfortunately, the same thing that made it so easy, led to a commoditization of countless businesses and many industries. Amazon saw this coming and prepared for it in a big way. They were ‘The Everything Store’.

Suddenly [adjective][adjective][noun].com’s value was eroding — and quickly. Suddenly it was exposed that they offered no value to their customers as products passed through their hands in the supply chain. Suddenly they found themselves competing with Amazon, Walmart, and Target with no decernable value proposition, a fraction of the technical skills, and a fraction of the advertising budget. Suddenly they woke up and realized they had spend the last 10 years fighting a slow, painful, and inevitable death.

Via Recode:

82% of households with $112,000+ incomes subscribe to Amazon Prime.

For a season, ‘competition’ almost exclusively meant ‘on Google'. But they are no longer just competing on AdWords. Customers are starting their search on Amazon. Google isn’t even in the picture.

The middle class is shrinking…err, dead.


Today’s e-commerce stores don’t sell items. They sell identities.

Today’s e-commerce stores don’t sell merchandise. They sell a mission.

Today’s e-commerce stores don’t sell retail. They sell relationship.

First and foremost, they tell a wonderful story. Oh, and they also happen to sell the gear you need to live out that story. And no one can better equip you to live out that story than the voice that is telling it.


Some great examples of this in action:

  • I can buy a lot of backpacks with a $300 budget. But GoRuck is a group of badass ex-special forces soldiers who make the best backpack money can buy. It’s military-inspired, bomb-proof and as badass as those who serve.

  • You shouldn’t need to dress like a stiff to enjoy a round of golf. Why can’t I be comfortable and causal on the course? Linksoul says I can. And they have exactly what I need.

  • Finding the perfect vintage tee is not easy. It’s got to fit right and have great graphics. The best connect on an emotional level. It’s a good thing Homage has the perfect shirt for your team, your place in pop culture, and your childhood memories.

Small, targeted product catalogs — just enough to provide the whole experience. Vivid narratives that help me connect with their vision/mission. And the highest quality products that turn customers into disciples.

Here’s to today’s e-commerce store!

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